Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

No Buffett on Path

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

No Buffett on Path

Article excerpt

COMMISSIONERS of the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey never fail to surprise. In the wake of the George Washington Bridge scandal, and while former Commissioner David Samson is fighting an external investigation into his possible conflicts of interest while serving as Port Authority chairman, another commissioner holds up Warren Buffett as the financial bar to determine future conflicts of interest.

Port Authority commissioners are debating possible new regulations that would determine when they should recuse themselves from voting on items that may be linked to their private business dealings. Many commissioners are titans of business and industry, and some made that point very clear Wednesday during a public meeting.

David Steiner, owner of a real estate company and someone who has also faced conflict-of-interest questions, made light of the issue. "I'm not going to decide something for [a company] if I have two shares," he said.

Well, in the case of Samson, he voted to reduce a parking lease fee to NJ Transit from more than $900,000 a year to $1 annually while NJ Transit was paying his law firm $1.5 million to help maximize profits at park-and-ride lots. Samson says he intended to recuse himself from the vote.

In Steiner's case, the remark shows how blind some commissioners remain to the optics of their roles as commissioners of this bi- state agency. The not-so-wealthy people who shell out more than $12 a day to ride across the GWB see a nearly $1 million lease reduction as significant. Maybe to Warren Buffett these are small potatoes, but not to the majority of the general public. And in case Steiner and Commissioner Jeffrey Moerdler - who introduced billionaire Buffett into the equation Wednesday - have forgotten, the Port Authority is not a private corporation. The commissioners are playing with other people's money. …

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